Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Wanderer, A Kat, and a Mice with a Brick

Why Groo?

It's a simple comic with a handful of running gags. And doggerel. Oh, the doggerel.

Perhaps it's because I feel a spiritual and intellectual kinship with the barbarian. Below is a scene from Groo the Wanderer #2, as he puzzles over a problem.

In the end, he did come up with a solution. It was the wrong solution, but no matter. I feel his befuddlement.

Groo the Wanderer was light, fluffy fun every month. Incapable of taking itself seriously, jam-packed with interesting visual tidbits from the pen of Sergio Aragones and the typewriter of Mark Evanier, the comic was a good time every time. And that isn't common.

The simplicity of the setup was part of its charm. Groo joins an army? He'll cause its defeat. Groo gets on a ship? It will sink somehow. Groo goes on a quest? He'll succeed only if success brings disaster. You know it's coming. The only question is how the comic will get you there.

I call it "The Krazy Kat Effect." George Herriman's brilliant comic strip centered on a very simple idea, executed time and time and time again. Krazy Kat was a love triangle between a cat, a mouse, a dog, and a brick.

The mouse hates the cat. The dog loves the cat and hates the mouse. The cat loves the mouse and doesn't hate anybody. The mouse wants to throw a brick at the cat's head. The dog doesn't want the mouse to throw the brick at the cat's head. The cat wants to be hit in the head with a brick, taking it to be a sign of love.

That equation of mouse, cat, dog, and brick formed the heart of the strip for decades. Herriman went wild with the possibilities created by the fixed form. He created a particular space, and then had complete freedom within that space to go as wild as he wanted. Which was pretty damn wild.

Groo the Wanderer's immutable story elements, its predictability, set it free and made it wild. Like Krazy.

Groo wasn't as mind-blowing as Krazy Kat. (Not much is. Dang, was that strip strange.) But dammit, Groo was a good solid humor comic that knew what it was about and had a lot of fun.

Plus it had loads of bad verse. Not enough comics have bad verse.



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